I wrote a post last week after Harlow’s kindergarten orientation, on the eve of her first day of school. The resounding question from everyone who read the post was: Well, how did it go?
The answer is, ummm…okay?
On the first real day, which was actually a half day, Harlow was excited to get dressed, excited to take the bus, excited to enter the classroom, excited to play with the play dough on the activity tables, but then got upset when it was time for me to leave. She held onto my hand, which turned into clasping my entire arm, which then turned into a tight hug around both my legs, her little face pressed into my body, like if nobody could see her face than maybe she wouldn’t actually be there.
I turned her body around, facing the circle of kids that was growing on the floor. I put my hand under chin as she faced away from me and felt big wet tears drop on the palm of my hand. She wasn’t screaming or saying anything, just silently letting her big brown eyes well up with water. It was heartbreaking but also showed some self-control. I think she was trying to be brave.
Her teacher invited Harlow to sit on her lap for circle time and Harlow went, seemingly knowing that if she didn’t seize the opportunity someone else might. Harlow wasn’t the only kid crying and clinging to her parents in the room. She went to her teacher, without looking back and I left the classroom.
It was sad but handled quickly, so pretty painless as far as drop-offs go.
Since it was a half day, I picked her up from school at noon, right before lunch. For pick-up, the parents line up outside the classroom and wait as each child’s name is called, on a first come, first serve basis. I was somewhere in the middle of the line and I watched as each happy kid came bounding out of the room, back pack on and the day’s projects in hand.
Except for Harlow. The teacher called her name and she stomped out with an oversized frown on her face, clearly for my benefit.
“What’s wrong, Harlow?”
“They didn’t let me take my picture!” Harlow told me once the teacher was out of earshot.
I walked back up to the teacher and asked if Harlow could take home her picture. She told me it was still wet and hanging up to dry. Sounded reasonable. Then she handed Harlow a worksheet that they had done as well, which seemed to satisfy her. “We asked the children to draw a picture of something they are good at. Harlow said she was good at baking and drew a picture of a cupcake and a cake.” There were also rainbow sprinkles dotting the entire page, so this made me feel like Harlow had an okay day.
“Harlow, did you have a good day?” I asked as we left the building.
“Because we didn’t stay for lunch!!!!”
“Oh. Well, this week you have all half days and then next week, you will stay for a full day.”
“THAT’S NOT FAIR!”
“So, you liked school enough that you want to stay for the full day?”
Well, okay then. Perhaps we were in a better place than I thought.
That night, I flew to Montreal for work and Mike handled drop-off for the next two days. He reported no problems on the second day but a few tears on the third day. “She wasn’t screaming and crying. She just clung to me a bit and had a few tears when I left.”
That night, I talked to her over Facetime to see how it was going.
“Did you like school today?”
“I went to sit down next to someone and she said the seat was taken.”
“Did you sit down next to someone else?”
“Was she nice?”
“So you made a new friend?”
“What’s her name?”
“I DON’T KNOW.”
“Okay, well, maybe you can find out next week.”
This morning, was the first full day of school. I’m back from my trip so I was in charge of drop-off. Harlow and Mazzy got up early, got dressed, and had no problem heading out the door. We were even early enough to get muffins at the bus stop and both Mazzy and Harlow were happy and cuddly on the bus. On the walk from the bus stop to school, Harlow had an extra kick in her step and made a point of telling me, “Mom, I am excited for the first full day.”
“That’s great, Harlow!”
We were so early that we arrived at Mazzy’s class (which starts first) before the teacher. The door wasn’t even unlocked yet. The girls played in the hallway while we waited. A couple of older girls that know Harlow from the summer ran up to give her a hug and say hello. Then Mazzy’s teacher arrived and we said goodbye. In third grade, the parents no longer enter the classroom. It’s just a straight drop-off. Then Harlow and I went to her classroom, where we were first to arrive as well.
“Mom, do you get to stay in the classroom with me for a little?”
“Of course!” For kindergarten, the class opens at 8:30am and parents can stay until 8:45. Harlow and I played with play dough, drew pictures and chatted with the other kids and parents at our activity tables. Harlow was in excellent spirits. She drew me a rainbow and asked me how to spell rainbow so that she could write it on the bottom. Then she wrote, “Mom” because “I made it for you” and signed her name. She was laughing and singing to herself and just being Harlow, which made me feel really good about how the day was heading.
I chit chatted a bit with the teacher to see how Harlow did last week. She told me she did great and that a lot of older kids came by the classroom to ask if she was in the class. “She’s a very popular kid already.” One of Harlow’s best friends is Mazzy’s friend’s older sister, who also goes to the school. They have a house near ours and Harlow spent a lot of time over there this summer. One of the things that makes me feel better about sending Harlow to kindergarten is knowing how many big kids will be looking out for her and saying hi in the hallways. Especially Mazzy, of course. As a kid, I always wanted to be that support for my little sister but there was too big of an age difference and we were never in the same school at the same time. I’m really excited for Mazzy and Harlow’s paths to cross in school. Mazzy has already told me that she can see into Harlow’s classroom when they go to music class.
The teacher announced that there was three minutes until the parents had to leave.
“Three whole minutes?!” To Harlow, that sounded like a lot.
She smiled happily as she finished up her drawing and told me to take it, but not put it in my bag because she didn’t want it to get crumpled. Then the music started playing which is the parents signal to leave. The kids started gathering at the front of the classroom, where each kid’s name was written on masking tape to designate their spot on the floor.
“Let’s go find your spot, Harlow.”
That’s when Harlow started to cling to me again.
“Harlow, it’s going to be a great day! You were so excited on the way here! You’re having lunch here today!”
I gave her a hug and tried to leave the classroom, but she followed me. I went back in the classroom, but she stayed out in the hall. “Come on, Harlow. Come back in. You’re going to have a good day!”
Harlow stayed in the hall, her back firmly planted against the opposite wall. She wasn’t crying. There weren’t even any silent waterworks happening. No tears at all. Just defiance. The assistant teacher came out to help me cajole her back in, but Harlow clung to my arm and then my leg and then my back as I tried unsuccessfully to detach myself.
Right then, the head of the lower school happened to be passing by, and gently but firmly, prodded Harlow back to the classroom. Harlow walked away from me holding both teacher’s hands, without looking back.
Drop-off is not seamless obviously, but I see definite progress. I couldn’t say this on the first day, but now I am starting to believe that Harlow is ready for kindergarten. Her actions tell me that she is going through her own process of accepting and understanding that too.
I guess you could say our confidence is rising together.
My boys are in the same grades as your girls. While I had no qualms (okay, maybe a few) about my older son Jack starting kindergarten, I have been dreading my little guy starting this year. It has been amazing to see him flourish over the last few weeks (we started school on August 16 here). But, as with you, knowing that his big brother is in the same building has been an immense help. Our school asked parents to drop off at the front door starting day 2….I wasn’t even sure Carson could find his classroom on his own. But without prompting, big brother Jack said “mom is going to drop us off in front of the school, but don’t worry, I will walk you to your class and give you a big hug.” (Seriously, I cried….). And then over the course of a few days, Jack slowly took a step back….walking him to the end of his hallway, then a little less of the way….and now he just walks inside the building and they each go their separate ways. It seriously made me SO happy to see.
Harlow will get there. She just needs a little time to adjust on her own terms! And once she does….we all know she will be a force to be reckoned with! 🙂
Awe! Sweet Harlow! Here’s hoping both your days continue to ease into smooth drop offs.
Harlow will be the rockstar of Kindergarten before you know it! Some kids just need a little extra time to find their routine.
My son started last Tuesday and they do full days every day. He was really excited but it seems he thought kindergarten was just playing with the fun learning toys in the classroom and on the playground. He isn’t adjusting so well to structured classes yet but we are working on it. He has also managed to leave the school a few times on his own and ends up being spotted on the playground and brought back inside. The school keeps asking me to reinforce staying with his class and I do…but honestly I think the fact that he manages to get away from the class and outside unnoticed is a much bigger issue. He gets really sullen and nervous when we ask about school. I’m really hoping after an adjustment period that he does better.
In a weird way it’s comforting to hear about other kids who are having some trouble with kindergarten. Because I keep feeling like I’m alone in the struggle and all the other kids are doing well. I know it’s not possible he’s the only one but it’s hard when everyone is acting like their kid is loving it and I’m like “my kid keeps trying to leave.”
Oh no! I would be concerned about him slipping away unnoticed also – like how does he even have access to get outside by himself?! Hang in there Momma – kids change so much throughout the school year – I bet before long you will see a big difference in him!
Well that made me tear up!!! Isn’t it great she walked away holding both teacher’s hands and didn’t look back… yes but so hard for mama! You were very effective explaining how both you and Harlow are growing in confidence. Sniff! My daughter just entered kindergarten too.
I feel like I just read a glimps to my future, my daughter will be going to kindergarten next year and my son will be in 3rd grade. Even though she’s so excited to ride the bus with her brother she’s a very strong willed little girl and gets upset when she doesn’t get what she wants. She’s very firm and holds her ground. I fear that she will be okay at first and once it’s time for me or dad to leave that’s when the defiance will start. I don’t know how I will handle it but I hope we will all get through it. I hope this week is better for Harlow And all goes smooth.
Crazy showman Harlow will arrive soon. Is she upset about not having her stroller?
She will take over soon! Harlow has such a beautiful, funny, charming personality. She will be the star and love it in no time. I know sometimes as mother I think we pass on our anxiety a little bit. Our kids pick up on everything and sometimes that makes it harder for them. I hope it all goes smoother sooner rather than later. 🎸 Rock on Harlow!
Aww, to Harlow! I think you are right that she will be just fine. I started kindergarten early too and apparently cried very morning at drop off for the first three months, so she’s doing much better already!